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Appalachian Trail thru-hikers Chairman, Hoot Owl, and Sherpa with Hostel owner Eric Barstow. (PAUL ROBITAILLE PHOTO)

SHELBURNE — Eric Barstow has owned the Rattle River hostel since 2017. He began hiking to help his struggle with Lyme disease, saw the hostel online and became friends with then-owner Mani Bumsted. Both were originally from Minnesota.

From 2014-17, Barstow slept on the property in a tent until he bought a camper and put it on the lot where he now resides. “I thought I could use a bed,” he said.

He changed its name from White Mountains Lodge and Hostel to Rattle River to tie it into its physical location along the Rattle River.

Barstow said his hostel is the only one on the Appalachian Trail. The AT crosses his property on the eastern side of the river.

“The AT has an easement on that part of the property so it cannot be developed,” he said.

Barstow, a Marine military police veteran and former Minnesota state prison guard, said he thrives around the hiking culture.

“We greet our clients with the Popsicle of their choice when they arrive,” he said.

Then the hikers go to the “decontamination room,” where they can clean their gear and backpacks and have access to washing machines and showers.

“Hikers having been out for a while — sometimes they can have an aroma,” Barstow said.

Barstow has two vans that staff and volunteers use to ferry hikers to town or to other trailheads. He has put in fiber internet to the hostel so hikers can catch up with news, friends and family.

“Everyone has access to the kitchen, and we do cook a pancake breakfast every morning,” he said. “We have a couple of private rooms, and I have a small cottage on the side of the house that we rent to groups.”

There are also dorm rooms and primitive campsites.

“We have campfires every night where everyone can gather and swap stories,” he said.

Barstow now considers himself a permanent resident of Shelburne and hopes to stay open this winter “depending on COVID. There are a few people who like to do winter hiking,” he said.

Barstow showed a wall in his living room where he had posted postcards and pictures from hikers.

“I like to hear from the people who stayed here how their hikes are going where they are,” he said.

Barstow says he averages 15-20 people a night.

“We have a few tents and a yurt set up outside for the overflow and those that don’t want to stay inside. Last month, we had three weeks where we were full every night," Barstow said.

“This is my dream,” he said. “The whole world comes to my backyard.”

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